Wednesday, March 08, 2006

My 10 Favourite Scenes in Films.

01. Andy and Red’s reunion. (The Shawshank Redemption)
The film is near ending, and you feel you’ve experienced everything with Andy, from the harsh realities of prison life, to… the even more harsh realities of prison life. He’s tried so hard just to survive, and now that he’s made it out, you’re almost overjoyed for him. Almost. There’s just one thing missing. His best friend. In a film that is all about platonic love and retribution, everything comes together gorgeously in a brief, sweeping shot where our leads our reunited. World wise smarts, stunning cinematography and life-affirming performances make a great film; this ending makes it a masterpiece.

02. The cuddle by the fire. (Brokeback Mountain)
In a flashback of Jack’s, when he remembers the better times, he’s napping by the fire, when the love of his life, Ennis Del Mar, Romeo to his Juliet and his raison d’etre, sneaks up behind up him in an intense embrace. Jack responds lazily, and the love felt by the audience, enhanced by the duo’s excellent chemistry in this scene is simply mesmerising. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Gyllenhaal’s on screen, but this scene confirms Brokeback Mountain’s intentions of doing more than just getting two actors to lock lips. As this film proves, sometimes it’s a hug that is far more satisfying. It can only be true love.

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03. Chalks. (Not one Less)
In Yimou Zhang’s minor masterpiece, Minzhi Wei is a 13-year-old girl trying to hold onto her class for the sake of a few measly bucks. She’s had a rough ride, and in order to get one of her students back, she’s pestered others for money, hauled bricks, and gotten lost. But there is light at the end of the tunnel, in the form of chalks and other forms of stationary. In this film, one of the students mourns over the stub of one chalk, and now, there is more than enough for all of them. It’s a simple act of kindness, but watching the effect is both heart-warming and humbling. Much like the film.

04. Antoine’s escape. (The 400 Blows)
Antoine Doinel has never had it easy. Just because he was a little mischievous and had a penchant for bunking off (and let’s face it, who hasn’t?), he’s been shipped off to the naughty boy’s school. Is he going to stay there? Well, we know Antoine, and we know the answer – Hell no! As he runs for France, the camera follows, and so do our hopes. Escape! we urge him. Whether or not he does is left to interpretation of that ambiguous, elliptical shot, and all the better for it.

05. Thomas Sangster’s airport run. (Love Actually)
Although not a great movie, Love Actually often features flashes of brilliance. The most brilliant of all is the airport/proposal sequence, in which, simultaneously, two neurotic, bumbling men pursue the love of their lives. One is about 10 years old, in love with an American classmate, and the other is about 40, in love with a Portuguese waitress. It’s Working Title, so you know what’s going to happen, but the sheer buzz of watching this scene, aided with Craig Armstrong’s excellent music makes you all warm and fuzzy inside.

06. Behind the poster. (The Shawshank Redemption)
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Andy Dufresne cannot put up with it any longer. Having worked in Shawshank for nearly 20 years, he decides its time for goodbyes. Only, we don’t know this just yet. As the Raquel poster is torn from the wall and we see the hole, strings resonate music genius, and we see Andy’s masterful escape. Sweet, sweet, redemption. Or, in this case, sewage-smelling redemption, but redemption nonetheless.

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07. “Wise up.” (Magnolia)
People are not all the same, and we don’t get judged by what we do. It’s a moody moment as everyone takes the time to contemplate their questionable lives, and the acting – from Julianne Moore’s mercenary wife realising that she truly is in love, to Melora Walters, facing the disillusions, to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s caring as the sensitive nurse, all listening to Aimee Mann’s melancholy tune “Wise Up.” As the scene progresses and everyone starts singing along, you realise that perhaps these people are not so disparate to each other, or, to us - We all need to wise up.

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08. “At last, I’m coming home!” (Dirty Pretty Things)
This scene must be one of the briefest to make me cry, but why it really hurt was the overture leading up to it, in this case, it is the entire film. Okwe, for the sake of his friend Senay’s happiness, has denied feelings towards her, and she, for the sake of her chastity, has denied hers for his. And look where it’s got them. Dirty Pretty Things does not shy away from the dark side, unafraid to make you think, “Wow, life can be pretty shit” and you predict it’s going to all spiral into despair. But not quite. As Okwe phones his daughter, his voice cracks, and tears come to my eyes. Perhaps there is some justice in the world, after all.

09. Adam Sandler’s punch-drunk revenge. (Punch-Drunk Love)
In another P.T. Anderson picture, Punch-Drunk Love, a quirky rom-com with an astonishing performance from Sandler impressed in other ways too. His character, Barry, is a bit on the weird side, true, collecting pudding coupons and calling up chat-up lines. But all of this was because he was lonely, and, in the scene where he realises that he won’t be bullied anymore, it’s Emily Watson he sticks up for as well as himself. Darkly funny, this is a scene that blends affection and crowbars, which is something I certainly couldn’t do.

10. O-Ren’s entrance. (Kill Bill: Vol. 1)
Always one for memorable entrances, Lucy Liu’s introduction in Kill Bill counts as one of the best of all time, the very epitome of cool, post-modern reserve. As she walks in to the tune of Tomoyasu Hotei’s iconic tune “Battle without Honour or Humanity” in three distinctive shots. Whether it’s the music, or the editing, or the facial expressions, or something else, it all comes together exceptionally. It’s not a scene that offers much insight to the characters or the story, but who cares? It’s bloody cool.

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Now, what are yours?


Jay said...

I used to dislike your favourite scene; thought it was entire irrelevant and would promptly argue that since Shaw was about hope, the film should have ended at that: hope. But you're right, the payoff is important, and it's imperative that we see how "hope" brings those characters together in the end. It's a beautiful shot and almost made my own top list... stands no chance against my love for Paradiso, however...

Alone in the Rain
[Cinema Paradiso]

So as to prove his devotion to her, he stands guard underneath her window, expectantly waiting for a sign. Time wears on, months fly by, and the montage continues with several shots of him standing in the same place, in all kinds of weather, as she does her best to ignore his presence. The music goes up as he marks off the days on the calendar and the last shred of hope is slowly wiped off his face. It's New Years and everyone is celebrating; shouts and explosions fill the air, as he walks off amidst the old discarded objects flying down from the terraces... alone... back to the projection room. I'm never quite sure whether to smile or to cry at what happens next; it's by far and away my favourite scene in the history of film.

A Gift of Love
[Cinema Paradiso]

A whole movie season is summed up in a few fragments, as he receives and views his bequest from his friend. He is overwhelmed, moved to the point of tears... it is the most profound act of love he has ever seen; a forceful reminder of the kind of love that has been absent from his life ever since his one true love has moved away from him. Perhaps the most sincerely beautiful sequence ever shot. A perfect ending to a perfect film.

O Captain, My Captain
[Dead Poets Society]

After a series of unfortunate incidents, our beloved professor gets fired and goes back to his classroom one last time to get his personals belongings. You know what happens next; it's a heartbreaking demonstration of respect and gratitude from the very few who were actually able to grasp what their professor has tried to teach them. Carpe Diem.

Ain't Gonna Be No Rematch

As the much-anticipated bout begins, Rocky seems clearly more determined in fighting for his self-worth than for the title. The whole sequence is a beautifully shot, scored, acted, edited, and directed piece of filmmaking, but what always gets me is what happens next. He may have lost the fight, but he was the one who came out victorious in the end. This is for me what that final shot in Shaw is for you... inspiring, inspiring, and inspiring.

The Princess and the Soldier
[Cinema Paradiso]

"She was the most beautiful of all and he fell instantly in love with her... but what is a simple soldier next to the daughter of a king? As he proceeded to tell her he could no longer live without her, she replied: If you can wait for 100 days and 100 nights under my balcony, at the end of it I shall be yours. With that the soldier went and waited one day... two days... then ten... then twenty. In rain, in wind, in snow... he was always there... he never moved. At the end of ninety nights he had become all dry, all white. Tears streamed from his eyes. He couldn't hold them back. And all that time, the princess watched him. At long last, it was the 99th night... the soldier stood up, took his chair and left." "What happened at the end?" "That is the end. And don't ask what it means. I don't know." Well, I do.

Emma said...

You didn't have a number 3. What do you think of my masterful list?

Jay said...

Um, what do you mean, I didn't have a number three. And I guess I have to be more careful in the future and remember to check whether you have replied to me or not.


Surprised to see that Love Actually scene so high up. Yes, it was good, of course it was, but it's surprising nonetheless... and another reason to see it again, I guess.

The "cuddle by the fire" sequence was heartbreaking, as it was supposed to be... and then the sad look on Jake's face as we go back to reality... aw. Beautiful.

Adam Sandler's punch-drunk revenge is, of course, my favourite scene in this romantic comedy wonder - and that is saying a lot, knowing I love just about everything about the film. I literally rolled on the floor laughing in the scene where he's running away from the bad guys, shrieking intermittently, and then jumps off this small bridge and lands on the road. Haha! It was just so dumb!

The 400 Blows... need to rewatch. Kill Bill's was cool if nothing else, and the DTP one you like, uh, I guess I didn't realise I was supposed to be moved by that. :S But your explanation makes sense.

Magnolia's sequence is a phenomenal one. The characters had just reached a point of complete desperation and the song (so just... give up) goes on to reflect that. Then frogs fall from the sky to complete the character arcs. What a masterpiece.

And needless to say, both of your Shaw sequences are great, though the film is full of memorable moments. I won't even try to mention them all...

dan said...

love fucking actually?!

Emma said...

Yes. Love Actually. Accept it.

MysticFist said...

Now I've seen them all... and I loved the Chalks scene!

Anonymous said...

Jason and the Argonauts.

I'm not drinking any fucking Merlot!

marie said...

Lassoo his man
Hug by fire
First tent scene
Second tent scene

I'm a Brokeback fan...

james said...

The scene in Samson and Delilah. You know which one.

And Merlot.


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Paul said...

bumped into your blog via a guardian blogg over Russel Brand.... your's is very interesting particularly over film.

However, favorite scene's...
I would go for almost any scene in the following ,based on rich images and speed of the photography :
1. Solaris (Steven Soderbergh) , with fantastic images and a great sound soundtrack.
2.The Thin Red line (Terrence Malick), shot 100% in natural light.
3.Road to Perdition (Sam Mendes). I can remember the dark street scene when someone is shot from a building ( the white intermittend gunfire briefly lighting up the building)

...there are loads more....

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